Debt burdens

The financial crisis and economic downturn are likely to put upward pressure on government debt. The trouble is, according to OECD in Figures 2008, public debt (general government debt, which includes central and local government) had already risen quite sharply in the OECD as a whole since 1987, from 59% of GDP to 75% in 2007. Two decades ago, Belgium had the highest public debt, but today that position is filled by Japan, whose debt rose from below 60% to 170% of GDP. Italy’s debt has also shot above 100% of GDP in the past 20 years.

Click here for larger graph

The figure of 60% of GDP was one of a handful of targets European governments set at the start of the 1990s to prepare for economic and monetary union, and eventually the euro. In 2007 euro area public debt stood above that benchmark at 71%, though this represents a decline from over 80% in 1998. The figures for France and Germany have risen, from 50% to 71% and from 38% to 64%. US public debt stood slightly higher than 20 years ago, and Canada’s slightly lower. Several countries managed to reduce their public debt/GDP ratios quite significantly, including Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Spain. One country to be badly hit by the financial crisis was Iceland; its public debt had also eased in the last two decades to just 22% of GDP in 2007.

See www.oecd.org/infigures

©OECD Observer No 270/271 December 2008-January 2009



Bookmark this


Economic data

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Editor's choice

  • Internet policy video
  • As the Internet transforms the way people, businesses, and economies work, what policies do governments need to implement so that everyone benefits from the digital economy?
  • "About 53% of foreign bribery cases involved corporate management or CEOs." Read more in the OECD Foreign Bribery Report
  • France 24 – Eurozone weakness threatens global economy: The Eurozone could get stuck in a “stagnation trap" without decisive action and poses a risk to the entire global economy.
  • [Video] If Africa aided Norway: Radi-aid challenges clichés.
  • [VIDEO] Migration is constantly evolving. Around one in ten people in the developed world today is an immigrant. And over the past decade, migrants have accounted for 70% of the increase in the working-age population in the OECD area, according to the OECD’s latest International Migration Outlook.
  • More fiscal stimulus could help Japan: speaking with CNBC, Randall Jones, Head of Japan/Korea Desk at OECD, warns that Japan needs a detailed and credible fiscal consolidation plan.
  • Modest global economic forecasts, continuing high unemployment and serious downside risks should spur governments with a greater sense of urgency to fully employ monetary, fiscal and structural policy levers to support growth, notably in Europe, according to the OECD’s latest Economic Outlook.
  • OECD Employment Outlook 2014: The OECD Employment Outlook 2014 includes chapters on recent labour market developments with a special section on earnings, job quality, youth employment, and forms of employment and employment protection.
  • Try our latest OECD Observer crossword!
  • Better Life Index
    How do you measure a Better Life? The OECD has launched a new interactive infographic where visitors can explore the priorities of people worldwide. Be a part of it. Create and share your Better Life Index.

Most Popular Articles

Subscribe Now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive print editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Poll

Is deflation a major risk in OECD economies?

Yes
No
Don't know

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2014